Sunday, 25 March 2018

A Bloody Tale

February 1902 and PC Williams is following his regular route around the streets of Lichfield, coming along Lombard Street at 10:40pm. It was here he saw a woman running towards him and crying out "Oh my lad, what have I done?" Being a good officer he took hold of her and took her back to investigate further. On entering the house, he discovered her husband, Frank, on the sofa in the kitchen. Blood was everywhere. Maud Shipley was arrested.

The first inquest had to be adjourned as the main witness, the victim, had been too ill to come to court. Indeed, the following week he appeared heavily swathed in bandages and looking most frail. It was then the story began to unfold. Frank Shipley had been employed by Mr Summerfield, a coal deal, as a waggoner. Leaving work he had called in to the Mitre Inn for a well-earned pint on his way home.

Arriving at his home in Lombard Street he discovered his wife to be most agitated, in an aggressive and excitable state, clearly the worse for drink and demanding money. Frank refused and turned on his heel, going out to get a shave. When he emerged from the barber's shop he was met by his wife who, once again, was demanding money and this continued as she followed him home. No sooner had he reached home than Frank went back out, this time to the Mitre Inn to fill a bottle with beer so he could drink it with his supper.

At this point the inquest heard from her sister who had spent some of the earlier part of that day with her. Indeed had seen her on a number of occassions, each time she had been complaining of a lack of money. Both she and two other women had shared their beer with Maud, eventually brining her home from the Grapes Inn where she was described as being "Half and half with the drink".

Another witness came to the stand and spoke of Maud banging on the door screaming "I will finish the bastard before the night's out". He followed her into her house to witness her picking up a knife and stabbing Frank three or four times in quick succession. She passed him by as she ran into the street, while he went to see how he could help the man who was bleeding profusely. He described Maud as being "Three sheets".

A second passer-by then entered and went back out to summon medical assistance. When the doctor gave evidence he described the scene as looking like a slaughterhouse. Mr Shipley having several wounds about the head, including a severed ear lobe, a two-inch gash across his face, and a wound to the neck.

When the case came to court the accused claimed she had acted in self-defence, that the very knife brought as evidence had been thrown at her by Frank at least twice. There was no evidence to support this claim and Maud Shipley, aged 28, was found to be guilty of the assault on her husband and sentenced to three months hard labour. This left Frank, himself still far from well, to look after their three children - the eldest five years and the youngest just two.

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